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By Don Vanderveen

At Lake Doster Golf Club, what you see is what you get. And then some.

What you will see is a well groomed and scenic golf course. What you get is a challenging, but honest round of golf.

What you will see is a golf course that measures about 6,500 yards from tee to green. What you will get is a whole lot more.

You won’t see the wind. But you may get that, too.

“ It is a challenging golf course, but it’s not because the golf course is tricked up,” says Tim Hartson of Par-5 Group, which owns Lake Doster. “There aren’t any blind shots or dirt moved to create a pond, it’s all right in front of you.”

The golf course at Lake Doster has an up north resort-type feel to it. It cuts through the woods and no two holes run parallel to each other.

“ On the front nine, you don’t see anybody other than the group in front of you or in back of you,” Hartson says. “You get the resort feeling of being isolated with your group alone.”

Lake Doster — which plays 6,540 yards from the blue tees and 6,112 from the whites — is a very challenging golf course for the good player and also a very challenging for the average player.
Challenging, yet fair.

“ If you hit the ball where it’s supposed to be hit, it is very, very fair because there is plenty of room out there,” Hartson said. “But if you do stray, you can get yourself into some awful tough positions.”

Lake Doster is a golf course that requires the use of practically every club in the bag.

“ You’ll have to hit long irons, you’ll have to hit short irons and you’ll have to hit a fairway wood at some point,” Hartson said. “That, to a certain degree, lends to part of the appeal to the golf course. It’s not like a course where you hit a driver or 3-wood off the tee and 8- or 9-iron to the green. The par-3s are not just ordinary 7-iron off the tees, either.”

The golf course was constructed in the late 1960s and built primarily on the contour of the land that existed. Not a lot of dirt was moved during construction. As a result, there is a lot of natural flow to the course. There is no artificial mounding, giving Lake Doster a natural feel to it.

“ It turned out to be a great golf course,” Hartson said. “It’s solid from the first tee to the 18th green.”

Designed by architect Charlie Scott, Lake Doster opened its first nine holes in 1967 and the other nine a year later. The Par-5 Group took over the operation in 1988 and have made modest, yet significant, improvements while keeping the integrity of the course intact.

Over the past two years, the hollow around the No. 2 green has been raised to create a much better strand of grass and meet USGA specifications.

Lake Doster’s signature hole — the No. 3 Little Monster — was transformed into a three-tiered tee area with rock walls around it. The back of the green at No. 3 was extended and bunkers around it raised to help with air circulation.

The “Little Monster” still has its bite and remains one of the most intriguing golf holes in West Michigan. This little 120-yard hole, with a peninsula green surrounded by sand and water, has been considered one of the toughest par-3s in the state of Michigan because of its beauty-and-beast mentality with dogwood trees that blossom during the spring and flourish during the summer.

“ When you tee off down a 45-degree angle, you have three landing areas,” says Hartson. “You’ll hit either green, water or sand.”

No. 17 is known as bogey gulch, a par 4 that plays like a 5, where the tee shot is hit down into a valley. The second shot must be properly placed to have a shot at the uphill green.

“ On that second shot, you’ll either hit green, or a bunker or a side hill that will knock you out of bounds,” Hartson says.


It is a course that takes on different demeanors, depending on which way the wind blows. Lake Doster is not stagnate.

“ A lot of our members make the comment that they never play the same golf course twice and they don’t get bored with it because of the way it flows,” Hartson said.

The final three par 4 holes all play over 400 yards from the blue tees and two of those play into the wind.

“ People will come out and play it and say that it is the longest 6,400-yard course they’ve ever played,” Hartson said. “It plays more like 6,900 yards because a couple par-5s are just under 500 and at least two will play well over 500 depending on how the winds change. And the wind always changes at Doster.”

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